Capitol Report February 11, 2022

We are halfway there. Week Five was a busy one with nearly every important piece of legislation having a committee hearing. The homestead exemption for “Critical Service Workers” continues to move in both chambers, along with the omnibus bill for law enforcement in the House. The various forms of PTSD legislation received committee hearings in both chambers. The budgets are now public and there are pay raises for state employees included in both proposals. The House and Senate approved different versions of the state’s spending plan which tees up budget conference… hopefully soon. And finally, the Legislature is considering an extension of the FRS DROP for law enforcement officers and to increase the employer contribution for all FRS investment plan members.

All in all, the week was a good one.

Here are the highlights from the week:

A) HJR 1 & HB 1563 by Representative Josie Tomkow and SJR 1746 & SB 1748 by Senator Jason Brodeur are the constitutional amendment proposal and implementation legislation which will provide an additional $50,000 homestead exemption to classroom teachers, law enforcement officers, correctional officers, firefighters, child welfare services professionals, active duty members of the United States Armed Forces, and members of the Florida National Guard. The exemption will be assessed on the value greater than $100,000 and up to $150,000 of the occupant’s homesteaded property. The exemption will only apply to active “critical public service workers”. All four bills were heard in committees this week passing unanimously. There are ongoing discussions about adding other employees to the proposals.

PBA supports this legislation and we are seeking an amendment to include Correctional Probation Officers in the final product.

B) The House Judiciary Committee unanimously approved HB 3 by Representative Tom Leek which creates the following (taken directly from the staff analysis):

  • Creates the Florida Law Enforcement Recruitment Bonus Program to provide one-time bonus payments to newly employed law enforcement officers in Florida;
  • Creates the Florida Law Enforcement Academy Scholarship Program to cover tuition, fees, and up to $1,000 of eligible education expenses for trainees enrolled in a law enforcement officer basic recruit training program;
  • Creates a reimbursement program to pay for up to $1,000 of equivalency training costs for certified law enforcement officers who relocate to Florida or members of the special operations forces who become full-time law enforcement officers;
  • Provides law enforcement officers who adopt a child from within the state child welfare system with a $25,000 benefit for adopting a child with special needs or a $10,000 benefit for adopting a child without special needs;
  • Makes dependent children of law enforcement officers eligible to receive a Family Empowerment Scholarship to attend a private school;
  • Increases the base salary for each county sheriff by $5,000;
  • Exempts veterans and applicants with an associate degree or higher from taking the basic skills test as a prerequisite to entering a law enforcement officer basic recruit training program;
  • Requires that law enforcement officers receive training in health and wellness principles as part of their initial certification training and continued employment training;
  • Allows law enforcement officers or former law enforcement officers to receive postsecondary credit at Florida public postsecondary educational institutions for training and experience acquired while serving;
  • Encourages each district school board to establish public safety telecommunication training programs and law enforcement explorer programs in public schools; and
  • Designates May 1 of each year as β€œLaw Enforcement Appreciation Day.”

Florida PBA supports this legislation and we are seeking amendments to include Correctional Officers and Correctional Probation Officers into the provisions. HB 3 is on the House floor calendar scheduled for next week.

C) HB 689 by Representative Mike Giallombardo and SB 1066 by Senator Danny Burgess expands on the time limitation for Workers’ Compensation Coverage of PTSD for First Responders. Currently, an officer has 90 days from the date of the event or manifestation of the disorder (whichever is later) to provide the employer with a notice of injury, or death. However, an officer has 52 weeks from the date of the event to file a workers’ compensation claim.

The legislation provides that the time for notice of injury or death a claim of PTSD is 90 days from the qualifying event that supports the claim or the diagnosis, rather than the manifestation, of the disorder (whichever is later). The bill also provides that the PTSD workers’ compensation claim is prohibited if not properly noticed within one year of the qualifying event, or the diagnosis of the disorder (whichever is later).

Both bills passed committees this week.

The Florida PBA supports the legislation.

D) HB 425 by Representative Jason Fischer passed its first committee, the House Insurance & Banking Committee. The legislation adds correctional officers, probation officers, and all part time officers into the Florida’s First Responder’s PTSD coverage.

PBA supports this legislation.

E) The House Appropriations Committee unanimously passed HB 1551 by Representative Josie Tomkow which allows volunteers to return to FRS employment after retirement sooner than the current statute requires with a penalty.

Florida PBA supports the legislation.

F) In a move that appears sudden (but is actually years in the making), the Legislature unveiled proposals (SB 7046 & HB 5007) to extend FRS DROP by three years for law enforcement officers to help retain veteran officers at every FRS participating agency in the state. The legislation also increases the employer contribution to all active investment plan participants by an additional three percent. In order to be eligible for the DROP extension the law enforcement officer must be participating in the DROP prior to July 1, 2028.

PBA supports this legislation.

That’s all for this week. As always, please stay safe.

Sincerely,

Matt Puckett